Cryotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses extreme cold to freeze and
destroy cancerous cells. This treatment is offered by University of Florida urologists
at UF Health Jacksonville as an option to treat prostate
and kidney cancer.
UF surgeons offer the latest generation of cryotherapy, which incorporates technological
advances such as real-time ultrasonography, exceptional temperature monitoring and
computer-assisted treatment. As a result, surgical complications from this procedure
have decreased to an almost negligible rate.
Prostate Cancer Treatment
During the procedure, the patient is under anesthesia. An ultrasound probe is placed
in the rectum and surgeons use ultrasound technology to guide needle-sized applicators,
called cryoprobes, to the prostate. For treatment of prostate cancer, the applicators
are inserted through the perineum (area between the scrotum and anus) and into the
prostate. Once the applicators are in the prostate, argon gas is released to create
temperatures 40 degrees below zero Centigrade to freeze the diseased cells. To prevent
the urethra from freezing, a catheter is put inside the urethra and filled with
a warm solution. The physician monitors the patient using temperature probes to
ensure protection of healthy tissue.
Once the diseased tissues are frozen, they are allowed to thaw and are then refrozen.
This freeze-thaw cycle is repeated to kill all cancerous cells and prevent the recurrence
of cancer. Typically, the procedure lasts about two hours. Afterwards, the patient
keeps a urinary catheter in place for one to two weeks to allow swelling to subside.
Patients can resume normal activities within two to three days and can expect full
recovery within four weeks. The patient will follow up with the physician in three
months to undergo additional exams and tests to determine whether all of the cancerous
cells were destroyed. If not, the procedure may have to be repeated a second time,
or the patient may choose radiation therapy.
Unlike radiation therapy that requires daily treatment visits for six to eight weeks,
cryotherapy is a single procedure that can be administered in an outpatient setting.
In addition, cryotherapy's cancer control rates are comparable to external beam
radiation. Compared to invasive surgical treatment for prostate cancer (radical
prostatectomy), cryotherapy results in very little blood loss.
A disadvantage of cryotherapy is that it may have to be repeated if all of the cancerous
cells weren't destroyed as a result of the first treatment. In addition, this procedure
has the potential to cause permanent erectile dysfunction, incontinence or injury
to the rectum or urethra.
Kidney Cancer Treatment
Laparoscopic-guided kidney cryosurgery is a two- to three-hour procedure and is
performed under general anesthesia. The standard laparoscopic technique is used
as the surgeon makes three to four small incisions. These incisions will allow the
surgeon full view of the target area. A laparoscopic ultrasound probe is used to
monitor the placement of the cryoablation needles into the tumor. In addition, the
ultrasound probe is used to monitor the tumor during the double freeze-thaw cycle,
which ensures elimination of the entire tumor and to minimize damage to any surrounding
Another minimally invasive approach offered at UF Health Jacksonville for treatment
of kidney cancer is percutaneous cryoablation. This procedure doesn't require any
incisions to perform. Cryoablation needles are inserted directly through the skin
and are stabilized in the tumor under the guidance of CT, MRI or ultrasound. This
operation is usually performed under general anesthesia, but can be done under mild
sedation. Percutaneous cryoablation is one of the least invasive approaches for
treating kidney cancer. However, whether percutaneous cryoablation can be done is
dependent on the location of the tumor in relation to other important surrounding
structures, such as the bowels. Physicians usually recommend an overnight hospital
stay after cryotherapy of kidney tumors.